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Matika Wilbur

Native American Photographer

Matika Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, for the past five years has been traveling and photographing Indian Country in pursuit of one goal: To Change the Way We See Native America. Matika began her career in fashion and commercial work in Los Angeles after completing the prestigious…

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Matika Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, for the past five years has been traveling and photographing Indian Country in pursuit of one goal: To Change the Way We See Native America.

Matika began her career in fashion and commercial work in Los Angeles after completing the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography. Though in high demand professionally, Matika realized that she wanted a different path as a photographer: to create portrait art that deeply communicated people’s lives and experiences.  She was especially drawn to remarkable personalities from the nation’s indigenous communities, who typically in massive media and the popular consciousness have been grossly neglected or stereotyped.

Matika chose to devote herself to photography as a creator and messenger, soon producing multiple acclaimed exhibitions in leading museums and other venues of her striking portraits of Pacific Northwest and other Native peoples.

She also began offering Native youth of her own community training and inspiration to explore and create visual art as a certified k-12 teacher; but she found that the representation of First Peoples in traditional curricula and the media as “leathered and feathered”, dying races undermined her students’ sense of identity and potential. Thus began Project 562’s mission to photograph and collect stories of Native Americans from each federally-recognized Indian tribe in the United States to create comprehensive visual curricula and publications representing contemporary Native America.

Matika has in this endeavor visited members of over 300 sovereign nations throughout 40 states, from Tlingits in Alaska to the Pima in Arizona, Pomos in California to Wampanoags on Cape Cod. Through her lens, we are able to see the diversity, vibrancy and realness of Indian Country, and in seeing, challenge and surpass stereotypical representations and refresh the national conversation about contemporary Native America.

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Changing the Way We See Native America
This presentation will providing remarkable insights into contemporary Native American life, driving the conversation forward to encourage U.S. citizens to evolve beyond the appropriation and neglect of indigenous images and traditions through a new model of awareness, with honest photographic representation and direct narratives of America’s first people. Wilbur says, “I believe the viewers will experience great understanding and connection with these remarkable people, just as they have enlightened and inspired me. By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indian presence and reality, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.”

The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women

Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining & Humanizing Native Peoples

Videos

Matika Wilbur - The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women -- Radcliffe Institute

Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining & Humanizing Native Peoples: Matika Wilbur at TEDxSeattle

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